Lee Iacocca, the U.S. auto executive and television pitchman whose feel for consumers’ changing tastes helped produce the Ford Mustang and the Chrysler minivan and made him one of the first celebrity CEOs, has died. He was 94.

His death was confirmed Tuesday by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in a statement. The cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to the Washington Post, citing his daughter Lia Iacocca Assad.

Studied in business schools, emulated by a generation of executives, Iacocca was a star salesman for cars and for himself, spurring periodic talk of running for president. (He never did.) His autobiography was by far the top-selling hardcover nonfiction book of 1984 and 1985, according to the New York Times. For more than three decades, since his appointment by President Ronald Reagan, he led the effort that has raised more than $700 million to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

“Lee Iacocca was truly bigger than life and he left an indelible mark on Ford, the auto industry and our country,” Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement. “I will always appreciate how encouraging he was to me at the beginning of my career. He was one of a kind and will be dearly missed.”

Iacocca arguably ushered in the era of the celebrity auto executive, with others such as Sergio Marchionne, Elon Musk and Carlos Ghosn following in his footsteps. Marchionne died last year, and Ghosn fell from grace in November after his arrest for financial crimes related to his tenure at Nissan Motor Co.

“I didn’t always agree with him, but he was a brilliant visionary," said Bob Lutz, former Chrysler president, who worked closely with Iaccoca and clashed with him at times. “He was flawed in many ways but when I rated the CEOs I knew, he came out on top.”

Besieged Carmakers

Iacocca was no miracle worker, however, and the American auto industry’s struggles didn’t end with his tenure. Japanese carmakers saw their U.S. market share grow 10-fold, to about 30%, during his 23 years leading two of America’s Big Three automakers. Chrysler, which averted collapse in 1980 in what may have been Iacocca’s crowning achievement, was buffeted by the financial crisis and recession of 2008, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2009.

“It pains me to see my old company, which has meant so much to America, on the ropes,” Iacocca told Newsweek at the time. The company emerged as Chrysler Group LLC, majority-owned by Italy’s Fiat SpA. It is now named Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

Iacocca first came to prominence when, at 36, he was named general manager of Ford Motor Co.’s flagship Ford division in 1960. With a group of like-minded young executives, he formed what became known as the Fairlane Committee — named for the inn where they met for brainstorming dinners — to discuss how to design a low-cost, sporty car that would entice younger, more affluent families to become two-car households.

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